History of St. John Vianney
The Catholic Church in Fort Assiniboine was named after St. John Vianney, a patron Saint who was born in 1786 in Dardilly, France. St. John Vianney was a farmhand who taught other children their prayers and catechism. He went into the priesthood at the age of 19, at a time when the government had control of the Church and many priests were forced to go underground.Vianney had great difficulty learning, especially Latin. It took years and the constant support of a bishop for Vianney o be ordained a priest. The Bishop interceding for him was asked “Is Vianney devoted to God?” “Yes” the Bishop answered. “Good then, let the Holy Spirit do the rest”. Vianney became a priest at 25 and was assigned to the parish of Ars. He spent days in prayer doing penance for his parishioners. His direction was characterized by common sense, remarkable insight and supernatural knowledge. He would listen to confessions for 18 to 20 hours per day and thousands came to hear him preach and to make their reconciliation because of his reputation with penitents. For 40 years his food and sleep were insufficient, humanly speaking, to sustain life. And yet he labored incessantly, with unfailing humility, gentleness, patience and cheerfulness, until he was more than 73 years old. He spent 40 years as a priest and died on august 4, 1859. He was canonized in 1925.
History of the Church
ST. JOHN VIANNEY CHURCH, FORT ASSINIBOINE
The arrival of the railroad at the new Barrhead site in 1927 resulted in settlers and the forming of a new business community and the need for more churches. There had been Catholic Missions throughout the district and a small church had been built at Mosside. At that time there were a few settlers at Fort Assiniboine. Fr. Eugene Rooney from Westlock visited families in the Fort Assiniboine area and celebrated the Holy Mass in the home of Mr. and Mrs. J. Walsh who lived in the area. In 1936, Fr. Connolly W. Poirier, a newly ordained priest was appointed Parish Priest of Barrhead and Missions. Many homesteaders were heading to the Fort Assiniboine area and Mrs. Walsh felt that her house was not large enough for all the parishioners of Pride Valley, Holmes Crossing, Topland and beyond, who attended Mass on Saturday morning once a month. She discussed this with Fr. Poirier and decided to donate a parcel of land to build a church.
Under the direction of Fr. Poirier, construction began on the church in 1948, with many local people volunteering their labor. In 1949, Fr. Poirier finished work on the inside of the church. He made all the pews and the parishioners paid ten dollars per family. Bishop Maurice Baudoux came out with Fr. Poirier to bless the church, giving it the name and placing it under the patron saint of priests, ‘St. John Vianney’. The Catholics of the area was formed as a mission of St, Anne Parish, Barrhead. The Mass was celebrated every Saturday at 5.00 pm. As the congregation grew smaller because many families moved and some parishioners passed way, the Diocese of St. Paul decided to close the church and the mission was amalgamated into St. Anne Parish. The last Mass was celebrated on July 13, 2013.
In 2014, after Fr. Johnny was appointed pastor of St. Anne Parish, following a special request from the Catholics of Fort Assiniboine area, Bishop Paul permitted a monthly weekday Mass at St. John Vianney Church. Thus, since August 27, 2014, Mass is celebrated on the second Wednesday of each month at 7.00 pm.
Today, everybody helps when it is time to look after the grounds and the building. All the hardwood floors were refinished, the inside of the church has been repainted, stained glass window was replaced and the inside of the entry was renovated. The church is heated by a wood heater.
Throughout the year, the church is ‘dressed up’ with appropriate decorations and inspirational postings. The most awesome decorations appear before Christmas when the church is the starting point for the ‘Journey to Bethlehem’, that takes place in the last two weekends in November. Over 1000 people come in before they begin their journey through time. Most of the parishioners help in various ways during this non-denominational event.
Mass was served every Saturday at 5 p.m. until June 2013 when the Diocese of St. Paul decided to close the church. On July 13, 2013, the last Mass was served.
In 2014 (when?) it was decided to have Mass once a month at the church. Every last Wednesday of the month, Mass is being said at the church, starting at 7 p.m.